Bowling Green State University players Jordan Hopgood (4) Jerry "Boo Boo" Gates (24) and Mike Minns (54) celebrate with teammates after the Falcons defeated Northern Illinois University 47-27 during the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday.
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BOWLING GREEN — When the Bowling Green State University football team found out its bowl destination Sunday, Falcon fans were excited.
And when BG learned its opponent might be Pittsburgh, Matt Johnson was especially excited.
The Falcons will play Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26 at Ford Field. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Late Sunday afternoon, when the bowl invitation was announced but the opponent uncertain, Johnson tweeted, “Please be Pitt. Remember when I was too short to play for you?” Later the sophomore quarterback was a little more subdued in his response — “I didn’t mean to offend people,” he said — but he remained excited.
“That’s a little motivation that I will use,” said Johnson of Harrisburg, Pa. “I know a lot of guys on the team, guys I played with and against in high school, and guys I played with in the Big 33 Game.
“It will be exciting to go up against guys I know personally.”
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will be the 11th bowl game in program history, and the third in the last five seasons under coach Dave Clawson. It also will be the program’s second appearance in a Detroit bowl; in 2003 the Falcons knocked off Northwestern 28-24 in what was then called the Motor City Bowl.
“We are thrilled to be invited to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit,” Clawson said in a release. “We look forward to a great game against a quality opponent.
“We are excited to play in a great environment like Ford Field again, so close to our campus, with our fans and students being able to make the trip.”
BG officials said Clawson is on the road recruiting. Several media reported that Clawson interviewed with Wake Forest on Sunday. He did not return a text message seeking comment on the bowl.
Bowling Green is the only Mid-American Conference school playing an opponent from a BCS automatic qualifier conference. Pitt finished with a 6-6 overall record and was 3-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Panthers of coach Paul Chryst finished sixth out of seven teams in the ACC’s Coastal Division, but have wins over Duke and Notre Dame.
“It has been a goal every year to beat a BCS team,” senior tight end Alex Bayer said. “This year we had two chances, and we didn’t come through. In my five years here, we still haven’t beaten a BCS team.
“We’re excited to get another shot at it. It’s not going to be easy, because Pitt is a great team.”
Ken Hoffman, CEO and executive director of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, said he feels his bowl has the MAC’s marquee game.
“No. 1, we have the MAC champion, a team that just knocked off an undefeated and ranked team,” Hoffman said, referencing the Falcons 47-27 win over No. 16 Northern Illinois in the MAC title game Friday. “Plus, Bowling Green has a strong following that is only 90 minutes away.
“We had them here 10 years ago, and we had a crowd of 51,000 for the game.”
Tickets for the Pizza Bowl are $15 for the public and $5 for BGSU students with a valid ID. The school hopes to begin selling tickets today.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.